Catholic Girl’s School In Portland Fires Guidance Counselor For Asking About Same-Sex Marriage

St. Mary’s Academy reportedly offered Lauren Brown a year's salary to keep quiet about her dismissal.

A Catholic girl’s school in Portland, Oregon, rescinded a job offer to an administrator after she asked what would happen if she was in a same-sex marriage.

Lauren Brown, 27, was all set to begin working as a college counselor at St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland, but the job offer was suddenly withdrawn when she asked what would happen if she were to marry her partner.

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Lauren Brown

The school reportedly offered Brown a year’s salary and benefits to keep silent about the situation, but she refused.

“To sign a contract that’s going to affect the rest of my life, and my passion for advocating for LGBT youth and LGBT people—there’s no way I could sign that,” Brown told the Willamette Weekly. “I could never live with myself.”

Parents, students and graduates are crying foul.

It’s hardly the first time a Christian institution has terminated an openly LGBT employee, but the case stands out because Portland has such progressive values—values St. Mary’s has generally embraced.

“They taught us about birth control, which obviously isn’t allowed,” one graduate told us. “In theory we were supposed to uphold Catholic values all the time, but they understand its much more complex in the real world.”

Related: Colorado School Banned Gay Valedictorian’s Graduation Speech, Outed Him To His Parents

Also, rather than try to bury the incident School President Christina Friedhoff sent a letter to alumni and families explaining the situation. “This is not an easy situation,” it read, in part. “As with all matters of faith, we strive to live out the values of the Gospel while struggling with the complexities of today’s world.”

St. Mary’s was founded in 1859 with a mission to foster “a diverse community” and “dedication to social justice.”

The alumna we spoke to, who asked to remain anonymous, graduated in 2009. She says there were “plenty” of out lesbians in her time there—”and definitely out teachers.” St. Mary’s LGBT group was unofficial, of course—”they couldn’t come right out and be supportive”—but there was no preaching against the sin of homosexuality.

Now openly gay herself, our source thinks the school is caught between a rock and a hard place: “Everyone I met at St. Mary’s was a caring, liberal person. So it kind of feels like this was coming from someone else.”

Was it school attorneys, worried that once Brown began working there it’d be harder to fire her? Was it the Archbishop, looking to take a harder line a now that the Supreme Court has made marriage equality a reality nationwide?

Portland’s mayor, Charlie Hales, has called on the school to re-hire Brown. “[We’re] a city that embraces rights and opportunities for everyone,” he said. “Those aren’t just nice words. They are also the law.”

Some former and current students have started a social-media campaign under the hashtag #FightForSMA, and have reportedly gone to speak with administrators. On the first day of school, they plan to march from St. Mary’s campus to the Archbishop’s house.

Even little things have been affected by the news of Brown’s dismissal: “When I graduated I started giving $20.09 a year to St. Mary’s,” our source said. “That’s probably something that won’t continue.”

She added, “The irony is the school’s mission is so much about social justice. They trained us to fight this.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery